Are Three-Syllable Words the Coolest Words, or What?

woven baskets

Why are handwoven baskets so lovely? Because human beings have an inborn hunger for beauty. And just as it is impossible to separate the utilitarian function of handicraft from its artistic function, the inherent beauty of the sounds and rhythms of words cannot be severed from the practical application of language.

That’s why everyone who speaks is a poet.

Just as a canary cannot read music, speakers of English needn’t study linguistics in order to employ rhyme, rhythm, assonance, and alliteration in their everyday speech.

The sportscaster is a poet when he says:

THAT BALL is OUTta here.

Instead of saying:

Chris Davis just hit another homerun.

And the adman is a poet when he writes:

BURGers are BETter at BURGer TOWN.

Instead of saying:

The chefs at Burger Town cook delicious burgers.

And the schoolteacher is a poet when she says in singsong:

PUT your PAPErs in the PACKet.

Instead of saying:

The assignment should be placed inside your homework folder.

And W.H. Auden is a poet when he tells us that the lover is

UNDer an ARCH of the RAILway

Instead of saying that the love smitten fellow is located

Underneath the elevated train tracks

Three-Syllable Words

We create poetry by collocating different types of words. And many of my favorite words have three syllables. (I have an unprovable theory that three-syllable words are the coolest words in the English language.)

There are three types of three-syllable words: Dactyls, Amphibrachs, and Anapests. Here are some examples:

Dactyl (The first syllable is stressed.)

Wonderful
Beautiful
Happily
Musical
Satisfy
Halibut
Excellent
Matterhorn
Saturday
Popular

Amphibrach (The second syllable is stressed.)

Accepted
Regardless
Terrific
Amazement
Exhaustion
Persistent
Reunion
Electric
Horizon


Anapest
(The third syllable is stressed.)

Incomplete
Misinformed
Unemployed
Understand
Interrupt
Comprehend
Unafraid
Absolute
Kangaroo

by Richard W. Bray

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One Response to “Are Three-Syllable Words the Coolest Words, or What?”

  1. Seven Ways of Looking at a Line of Poetry | Laughter hope sock in the eye's Blog Says:

    […] seriously into words. I have argued that it’s ultimately impossible to separate language from poetry because our ancestors began playing with words as soon as they began to invent them. Uttered […]

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